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Floodwaters sweep towards another Pakistan town

International Desk |
Update: 2010-09-04 20:03:10
Floodwaters sweep towards another Pakistan town

KARACHI: Pakistani authorities were Sunday trying to protect another town from floodwaters in southern Sindh province, as the nation continues to grapple with its worst natural disaster in living memory.

A month after monsoons caused devastating floods throughout the country, submerging an area the size of England, eight million people remain dependent on handouts for their survival, which many say are too slow coming.

Surging floodwaters continue to threaten towns in southern Sindh, where 19 of its 23 districts have been deluged and more than one million people displaced.

"We are trying our best to protect Johi town, threatened by ravaging floodwaters," district administration chief Iqbal Memon told AFP.

The town, which is 315 kilometres (195 miles) north of Karachi has a population of 60,000 and officials fear that floodwaters will breach embankments surrounding the town unless they are quickly strengthened.

"The floodwaters are fast heading towards Johi town after inundating most parts of Khairpur Nathan Shah town and Mehar town and several surrounding villages in Dadu district," he said.

"We are right now employing all available means to strengthen the protective embankments around Johi but the threat still remains," he said, adding that 70 percent population of the town has already migrated to safer areas.

Memon said that 90 percent people of Khairpur Nathan Shah, Mehar town and surrounding villages, which had a population of approximately 300,000 have fled to nearby towns that have been spared by floods.

"However, a few thousand people, who remain stranded in Khairpur Nathan Shah, Mehar town and surrounding villages are being evacuated to safety by naval boats and helicopters".

While the international community has donated 700 million dollars, domestic anger has been mounting against the widely unpopular civilian government, which has come under fire for its handling of the crisis.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday told the lower house of the federal parliament that relief efforts would be extended to six months.

He said that early recovery phase shall be completed by December 30, while damage and need assessment by World Bank and Asian Development Bank would be completed by September 30.

The World Bank has raised flood aid to Pakistan to one billion dollars, while the IMF has approved 450 million dollars in emergency financing to help the nation cope.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference on Thursday appealed to Muslims everywhere to direct their zakat tithes -- donations required under Islam -- to relief for Pakistan, rather than leave Pakistanis "alone to their fate".

However, the UN has warned that the slow pace of aid pledges could impede relief operations and says Pakistan faces a triple threat to food supplies -- with seeds, crops and incomes hit.

The floods have ruined 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) of rich farmland, and the UN`s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said farmers urgently needed seeds to plant for next year`s crops.

Prime Minister Gilani warned Wednesday that the country faced inflation of up to 20 percent and slower growth because of devastating floods, which wiped out crops and killed 1,760 people.

Disaster officials have said that number of deaths will likely rise "significantly" when the missing are accounted for.

BDST: 1530 HRS, September 5, 2010

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